I settled in Washington, DC after finishing undergrad for one reason. “It’s the perfect balance of southern open space and northern urban living,” I told all my family and friends back home in Atlanta. But after a few winters in the capital city, even that perfect balance was enough to make me miss my southern homeland.
Every summer in my childhood, I was sent to live in rural Greenville, Alabama with my grandmother. The days were long; the hours moving slower than the molasses on my granny’s homemade biscuits. I passed the time not by watching YouTube or IM’ing friends (mostly because there was no internet access,) but by shelling purple-hull peas, shucking corn, and riding in the back of my uncle’s pickup truck.
As an adult, summers don’t feel so long anymore. Instead of running through fields of bright collard greens and tomatoes, I spend more time running through metro stations. In childhood I abhorred the sweaty boredom of those slow Alabama summers. But now I purposefully spend my time and money travelling to pick vegetables and play in dirt.
The abundance of “Pick-Your-Own” farms in the DC region is like a well-kept secret. With so many options to pick from, I’ve been loyal to one farm for four years; Larriland Farms in Woodbine, MD. Larriland is about an hour outside of DC. But the trek is all a part of the fun. Every year, I round up some friends, rent a car, and drive until I’m surrounded by apple trees.
Larriland Farms is the ultimate autumn escape. Local families fill up the fields and the Red Barn Farm Market. The farm offers hay rides, a straw maze, food trucks, and the friendliest staff around! The first time I visited Larriland Farms, I came only seeking apples but was delighted to find other fruits and vegetables ripe for picking as well. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of the produce and festivities at Larriland Farms.
This Year’s Haul
1 bag Spinach
1 bag Kale
7 lbs Apples (Stayman and Braeburn mix)
1 bag Fresh Kettle Corn
1/2 gallon Apple Cider
Be on the lookout for new apple recipes from The Handy Chef, as I figure out what to do with seven pounds of apples.
What do you do with a weekend and an urge to get out of the city? Easy, you take a day-trip! August was full of projects and work days that went well past 5 pm. So I was due for a getaway this September.
The weather isn’t quite beach-friendly, as autumn approaches. But the leaves aren’t quite crisp enough for apple picking yet. So, my getaway destination needed to be fit for this early September dilemma. After some research, Eastern Shore rose as the perfect destination. And it’s only an hour and a half away from DC!
My partner, Kaia, and I found a chic Airbnb guesthouse in Easton, Maryland. And we were pleased to find such a wide selection of dining options. Our Airbnb hosts were expert locals who confirmed all the worthily hyped restaurants and warned us against the over-hyped tourist traps (shoutout to Kevan & Chris.)
Rise Up Coffee is a regional chain of coffee shops that we initially didn’t consider for breakfast. But after hearing rave reviews about Rise Up’s breakfast burrito, we decided to give it a try.
When we arrived the shop was packed with local folk. The vibe was communal and home-y. As we were standing in line, the waitress from a restaurant we visited the day before spotted us. She came over, coffee in hand, and joked, “You guys still enjoying the town, yeah?” Clearly, we were right at home in Easton.
Not only was the environment friendly and pleasant, the food was well worth the wait! I ordered the Banana Splat bowl, which was a banana parfait. My partner, always opting for a more savory item than me, ordered Rise Up burrito with cheesy potatoes. Either the burrito was just really really tasty, or I enjoyed it more because I had to sneak bites from Kaia’s plate when they weren’t looking. Probably both.
And of course, the coffee was great too. I drank a hazelnut iced latte with Oat milk. Rise Up met all my breakfast needs: good coffee, good folks, and good food.
Wine & Beer
No matter where we go, we’re determined to find where the locals keep their good wine. Because whether it’s hidden away or in plain sight, there is always good wine. We had a disappointing glass of overly-sweet red wine at one winery. But a local Marylander pointed us to a wine bar we were guaranteed to love.
We pulled up to Snifter’s Craft Beer and Wine Bistro right after lunch time. We entered and met a man named Joe who poured us some delicious flights of wine and beer. My flight of beers included one of the most creative and satisfying beers I’ve ever tasted, the Coffee N’ Cream ale from Burley Oak Brewing Company. Burley Oak is a local brewer which I had never tried before. But I was blown away by this ale. I will be back to Snifter’s, if not only for that Coffee N’ Cream beer aand Joe’s friendly handshake.
This small, bayside seemed to be the “hip” town on the Eastern Shore. Boasting a main street full of boutiques that sell everything from fine cigars to cheesy tourist trinkets, this was a town we could not skip over. We sat in rocking chairs and puffed cigars, waving a folks as they strolled past the cigar shop’s front porch. Kaia and I both have roots in small, southern towns so we relished in that small town feeling.
At the recommendation of friendly locals, we stopped by Awful Arthur’s for a quick lunch. The atmosphere had the same seaside charm I loved about St Michaels. My fish and chips was pleasant, but had a bit more breading than I prefer. The best part about this lunch date was sitting on the front porch of the restaurant and watching the passers-by as Kaia and I slurped down our mussels.
In each shop we entered, leading up to our 8 pm reservation, locals affirmed our dinner selection. Whenever we mentioned the name of the restaurant, we got responses like:
“Gosh I love that place. You’re gonna have a great meal!”
“Nice, that’s my special occasion restaurant. You know: anniversaries, birthdays, etc.”
Needless to say, Limoncello is a restaurant loved by many in St Michaels. After our lovely meal in the Italian restaurant, I can now be counted in the number of Limoncello lovers.
Kaia and I split a big bowl of mussels as an appetizer. The mussels (not pictured) came atop an incredible red sauce. After devouring the mussels, we ordered the salmon and Branzino. Our fish entrees were expertly prepared, with the perfect flaky texture I always attempt at home but can never quite replicate.
My dimly lit photos do Limoncello no justice; the meal was truly delicious. On my next trip to Eastern Shore, Limoncello will certainly be on my itinerary.
Have you ever vacationed in a small town? What did you discover?
In classic millennial fashion, I proudly call myself a Plant Mom. While I don’t have any roommates, I am accompanied by my many indoor plants. I’ve had most of my plants for over a year. Needless to say, they were all long overdue for some TLC.
For the past few weeks, many of my indoor plants started drooping and browning. My largest plant is a **corn plant that sits on my living room floor. It was losing life with each passing day. I was confounded by what could be killing my plants. I hadn’t changed my watering schedule or light levels. Then it dawned on me, it’d been a full year and I had not fertilized or re-potted my plants!
So I took a trip to Home Depot to buy a few new pots, potting soil, and all-purpose plant fertilizer. Then I spent the afternoon carefully re-potting my plants.
**Okay, the corn plant died. But I stealthily replaced it with another from Home Depot.
Why I Keep Indoor Plants
For me, and droves of other millennials, caring for plants is a way of grounding my life. I work in a field where everything I create is digital. After working all day, I have no finished product that I can physically touch. With most of my day happening behind a screen, plants provide a tangible outlet.
When properly watered and cared for, they liven up my space, freshen my air, and bring me joy. When neglected, they droop as if literally disappointed. This is real; it’s concrete. And having these plants’ lives depend on me is an anchor to a reality that doesn’t require software updates, but may require some debugging.
I grew up surrounded by lush greenery, often eating things directly from the soil instead of the grocery store. Moving to an urban landscape has been rewarding in every possible way. But I miss that connection to the Earth. So I keep my living room full of as many plants as I can keep alive. While I haven’t started growing my own vegetables yet, I’m excited for the small amount of dirt that I do get to play in.
I’ve always fancied myself a Proper Lesbian. I have a respectable collection of flannel shirts. I chose the restaurant when my date is “okay going wherever.” I never ask a girl out if I’m not sure she’s gay. And I certainly never crush on straight women.
So, I was surprised when I realized I have been crushing on the same straight woman for nearly a year. So much so, that “crush” is really more of an understatement to save my ego. More accurately, I had a full romantic attraction to a close friend. A friend who is straight and in love with her boyfriend.
Prep time: 1 year
1 cup blurred boundaries
1 dozen Drunken Weekends
1/2 quart feelings, to taste**
2 tsp denial
1 tough conversation
**The blend that I used, but feel free to substitute to taste
Muddle the boundaries with the drunken weekends
The nature of friendships between women makes it easy to blur boundary lines. This particular friend and I already had a relatively intimate relationship. Between all the playful flirting and cuddling and quasi-romantic bonding, my guard was low enough to let a tiny crush slip past. But after throwing back a few cups of college-strength cocktails, the boundary lines went from blurry to invisible. At that point, my guard was asleep at the wheel while that tiny crush was in the backseat turning into full-blown romantic feelings.
Stir in the denial, let it sit
At first, I rejected the idea that my involvement in this was foolish. I was convinced this wasn’t a typical lesbian-likes-a-str8-girl situation, because it was mutual. I wasn’t playing this game alone. She initiated much of the physical contact we ever had. She verbally expressed how much of a crush she had on me. She even explicitly told me if it weren’t for her boyfriend, she’d be with me.
Of course, I didn’t believe all of those drunken declarations. I wasn’t waiting on her to drop her man, her sexuality, or her life to run away lesbian-ly with me. I dated other women. I didn’t hold out much hope. So it was a harmless crush, right?
Fold feelings into the mixture
I was charmed by her. I was impressed. And dazzled.
Again, the past tense verbs merely protect my ego. I am still all of those things.
But one year after I unconsciously began this process, I found this crush was no longer “harmless.” And that I was fantasizing about being with a woman who was planning the rest of her life with her boyfriend.
The final product:
Once all of the ingredients have been combined. You’ll be left with an unhealthy attraction to a straight woman and a mess, one indistinguishable from the other. The final product isn’t edible or useful. Logically, it should just be discarded.
Before you throw away your concoction, there’s a secret ingredient that may keep intact the friendship underneath the mess. By itself, it’s bitter and avoided by most reasonable cooks. But, if you’re like me, you threw reason out of the kitchen way back at step one.
Grate a tough conversation on top of the entire mixture
I sat down with her, even if drunkenly. And I told her everything, as if she didn’t already know. I told her how innocent it started out for me and how intense it had grown to be. Most importantly, I told her I’m letting go of the feelings I have for her and how foolish I felt for ever developing them in the first place. She accepted it and understood her role in the process. Our friendship has carried on seemingly undamaged.
The new final product will be loose, but still hold it’s shape. It will be edible, but not palatable. On the bright side, if you soak the mixing bowl long enough, you may be able to use it again for future recipes.
Try this recipe at your own risk; I cannot guarantee the same results.
Like many people my age, I grew up laughing at reruns of The Wayans Bros. on MTV. And like many people I grew up with, I was a child of divorce. While casually watching NBC one night, I found a funny intersection of the two.
Marlon is a new sitcom driving Marlon Wayans’ quasi-comeback. In the show, Marlon’s character (bearing the same moniker) and his ex-wife Ashley (played by Essence Atkins) have a friendly divorce. Marlon frequently visits their two children, who both live with Ashley. Ashley and Marlon joke leisurely and co-parent with as much ease as a married couple would. The children seem to be satisfied and even benefiting from the non-traditional arrangement. This reminded me of my childhood.
As a Former Child
My parents were married for a few years before I was born. But their marriage ended when I was two years old. From then on, I lived with my mom and my two sisters (both from my mother’s previous relationships.) My father lived about a 15 minute drive away. He would come over occasionally to bring firewood, cut the grass, or just to eat dinner and make dad jokes. This carried on for most of my childhood. Until his job relocated him to Virginia when I was 14. We held a fairly steady correspondence, until he passed away when I was 18.
My parents were always open about their friendship, their marriage, and their divorce. In fact, the first thing I learned about their divorce was my mom telling they went out to dinner at Red Lobster after it was finalized. Of course there were the not-so-pretty details, like my father’s alcoholism and my mother’s controlling nature.
But, even in my fatherless household, I couldn’t quite relate to the “tragic” narrative TV shows always showed about children of divorce. And still to this day, I just don’t feel like I missed out on anything by not having an in-home father.
Nearly every household in my childhood community was lead by a single mother. That was all I had known as normal. The few lasting marriages I saw between my aunts and uncles were riddled with infidelity and a type of patriarchy that never sat right with me.
Consequently, as a child, I genuinely thought the happy, traditional two-parent home was just a made-up on TV fantasy. (see: Cosby Show, My Wife and Kids, etc.) Further, I thought the Child of Divorce trope was entirely fabricated as well. I didn’t get why children on TV were so bent out of shape over their parents’ divorce. I say that as a testament to how fulfilling my childhood was, not as a detractor from pain that divorced has caused many people. I would have been grateful to have seen a show like Marlon during my childhood.
As a Future Parent
Just like any other family structure, being raised by divorced parents came with some downsides and struggles too. Marlon doesn’t exactly capture some of those feelings. So, I look to Raven’s Home. In my childhood, Raven Symone was the star of another perfect TV family in her show That’s So Raven. But the actress has returned to Disney Channel in a TV show much more like my own childhood. Raven plays a single mother of two. She and her children live together with Raven’s best friend, Chelsea, and Chelsea’s son.
In episode 4, “The Bearer of Dad News,” Raven’s ex husband has to tell their kids that he’ll be moving to Texas and won’t see them as often anymore. The mood of the episode darkened and the children’s faces got long and sad. While I initially identified with the kid’s angst about the change, my attention shifted to the parents’ reactions.
As I get older and have more frank conversations with my mom, I uncover more of the details in my parents’ divorce. Now I can see how some of my parents’ smiles in front of me had just been tears and disagreements behind closed doors. In the same way, Raven’s Home showed how the adults handled tough times. Raven and the children’s father, Devon, had a heartfelt talk without the children around. They joked about having one last hurrah, then came to a solemn goodbye.
This episode was like peeping behind the veil of “grown folks business.” When I was a kid I didn’t understand how much effort it took for my parents to raise me while living apart and forging new relationships. But now that I’m slipping into adulthood, I recognize how hard my parents worked for my happiness. And I’m thankful that they worked so hard for it, especially my mother. Lastly I hope I have that same strength in raising my children, whether in marriage or divorce.
I never saw my parents kiss before they left for work in the morning.
Or join a couples’ book club.
Or wear matching outfits to church on Sundays.
But I value what I did see. I saw them calmly set aside their differences to buy the wacky toys on my Christmas lists. I saw them both at my rec-league basketball games, even though I played terribly. And I saw them love and respect each other outside of marriage. Seeing that has taught me things that I could use in my future marriage or, albeit, divorce.
Because I was raised in such a pleasant divorce, I can love and wed without the crippling fear of divorce. Because I know I can raise happy children and have a healthy family without being married. And because I’d probably be great divorce.
SZA finally dropped her album, CTRL, which was apparently long-awaited by everyone but me. I had never been much of a SZA fan but after listening to CTRL, I am officially hooked.
Per usual, my review will be half musical assessment and half anecdotal narrative, based on the emotions and memories this music evoked.
CTRL had an encompassing effect on me, as if the emotions it stirred up within me came from all directions. While SZA sang about her damaging relationships with men, I thought about the times I’ve been hurt by men and even women in the same ways. But conversely I thought about the times when I was the one inflicting that same hurt on someone else.
On Being Hurt
The album starts with a clear theme, opening with dialogue from SZA’s mom speaking about losing control. Then SZA begins Supermodel with a faux sense power stating she’s leaving her man and his “shit.” But this quickly unravels as she poses a question in aside, “Why am I so easy to forget like that?” This spirals into a complete surrender of that control and deeply vulnerable proclamations:
“Leave me lonely for prettier women, You know I need too much attention for shit like that.”
“I could be your super model if you’d let me.”
And a repeated, “I need you.”
-SZA, from “Supermodel” on CTRL
Needless to say, I was neck-deep in my feelings after just the first song. The same vulnerability can be heard on Anything when SZA begs the question, “Do you even know I’m alive?” along with a penetrating stomp-and-clap feel.
The tenderness of these lyrics spun me back to my late teens, when most of my love was unrequited and most of my love interests were the type of dirty men SZA mentions on Broken Clocks.
Ironically, the sorest memory I have on being ignored and emotionally manipulated was done by a woman, not the boys I chased in high school. We hit it off during a school visit over the summer leading up to freshman year. In the Fall, we arrived on campus and we both quickly found out she was out of my league. Then she started to govern her actions accordingly. Occasionally she’d play into my funky little feelings to get what she wanted out of me, which was usually small things like weed, a borrowed jacket, a Big Gulp from 7/11.
Once she randomly asked me to hold her hand while we were out with friends. I thought I was #inthere. But I noticed she kept glancing at another girl in the group, a girl she’d been involved with. She only wanted to hold my hand to make the other girl jealous. If only SZA had dropped CTRL for me back then. A little while later I finally let go of that hopeless crush. Then I started dating women who actually liked me, and whom I inadvertently hurt.
On Hurting Others
Already drowning in my feelings after Track 1, silly of me to think SZA would let up on the next song. While I was busy swaying to the melody, SZA snuck in and hit me with the question of the century on Love Galore.
“Why You bother me when you know you don’t want me? Why you bother me when you know you got a woman? Why you hit me when you know you know better?
-SZA, from “Love Galore” on CTRL
Apparently I wasn’t the only one affected by the lyrics (see video below.)
So after listening to the song, I really sat down and wondered: Why do I bother her when I know I don’t want her? The “her” in the question being the women I’ve led on (both intentionally and not.) And the answer to question being, shallow selfishness.
Fast forward 3 years from that embarrassing, freshman year crush. I’ve recently found myself in the pattern of entertaining women I’m hardly compatible with for the sake of it. My last romance was a brief fling of this nature. I knew after the first date I had no romantic interest in her, yet I kept dating and having sex with the girl. That was wrong and immature of me. And now every time I pick up my phone to text an old flame or message a new Tinder match who I know I have no intentions of actually dating, I hear SZA ask me “Why you bothering her?”
The song that struck even deeper with me was 20 Something. It was SZA who begged,
“Why you ain’t say you was getting bored? Why you ain’t say I was falling short?”
-SZA, from “20 Something” on CTRL
But I heard it in the voice of my first love, who cried the same questions to me at the end of our relationship. We were together for about a year. I became overwhelmed and was not emotionally mature enough to know it, let alone communicate it. So I checked out of our relationship mentally. I heard “Why don’t you take me out any more?” and, “When was the last time you touched me?” many times but didn’t take the chance to come clean.
I continued our relationship after having fallen out of love with him, while he laid next to me every night under the assumption I was being honest. It took nearly an entire year post-breakup just to forgive myself for hurting him that badly. SZA went right on ahead and dug all those feelings up too.
The album has a tidy ending, with SZA’s mom wrapping up her sentiments on control and SZA thanking her. CTRL felt like a conversation between mother and daughter, obviously, but also between SZA and her situationship-chasing younger self. I was moved by her vulnerability; I feel like I grew with her through this music.
This past weekend was San Francisco Pride! What place would a queer girl rather be than San Francisco (a.k.a HQ for the Gay Agenda)?
Answer: with her friends.
I’ve ended up in San Francisco for the past two summers, interning at a Tech company. And like last year, I’m rooming with three straight girls, all of whom could not be less interested in my lesbian longings for community and safety in the arms of other queer women. With those being the only people socially available to me out here, I didn’t have much chance for a gay-filled weekend.
So I decided to go alone.
Of course my decision to go alone came with some jitters and fear of looking like a loner in such a social place. But I persisted through those inhibitions for my personal growth (but mostly for blog content.)
I made my way to Delores Park for the Dyke March. It was exactly what it sounded like, and what I’d hoped it’d be. The streets were blocked off and filled with queer woman of every kind. Admittedly, I stayed hidden in a Cafe across from Delores up until the actual march began. But once I finished my Agua Fresca, I joined the droves of lesbians marching around the Mission.
The sweetest part of the Dyke March was seeing so many older lesbians, specifically older lesbian couples (bonus points if they had a kid or a dog.) That was a gentle reminder that a cheesy domestic ending is possible for me, something mainstream media doesn’t often affirm.
Even though I was alone, I didn’t feel isolated. And I actually felt a little warmed being surrounded by so many smiling queer women. I don’t see that often enough. I’d definitely go to the Dyke March again next year.
The main Pride Parade down Market Street was on Sunday. The parade was a little less engaging than being completely engulfed in a sea of lesbians, but it was fun nonetheless. My roommate decided to tag along with me to that event. I still have all the random flyers and temporary tattoo tabs that were handed out during the parade.
Honestly, the parade felt commercialized and abstract instead of being deeply for and about queer folk. I enjoy corporate floats as much as the next gal, but I enjoyed the Saturday events more.
Master of None is a scripted dramedy on Netflix, created by Aziz Ansari. I wasn’t very moved by the first season, and stopped watching about half-way through. But I was drawn back in by a relatable episode following Denise Watkins, played by Lena Waithe, as she navigates being the only lesbian in her family. Throughout the episode, I noticed just how similar my story was to Denise’s.
Her story reminded me of the day I came out to my mom at our favorite Waffle House. I always love writing about stories that make me feel less alone in my experiences. But the true reason I wrote this piece is for the people in my life who weren’t there to see me cry over a pecan waffle, unsure of whether I’d still have my family’s love and support after my tears dried. And for anyone who may not be able to come out quite yet. So, let’s begin.
The episode catalogs Thanksgiving dinner in the Watkins’ house through the years. In childhood, Denise was a Regular Kid™. The only visible deviation about her was her preference for sporty clothes and her distaste for the frilly confines of the skirts her mom picked out for her.
Like my mother, Denise’s mom (played by the amazing Angela Bassett) only gently attempted to correct this behavior, mostly hoping her daughter would outgrow it. Besides, at that point, neither Denise nor I knew we could be gay.
The episode then jumps to Thanksgiving during Denise’s high school years. Denise and Dev (Aziz’s character) smoke weed in Denise’s bedroom while her mom and aunt were preparing dinner downstairs.
(Sidenote: Now I might be brave enough to come out as a lesbian, but I was never reckless enough to light more than a candle in my mom’s house. I probably wouldn’t be alive to tell that story anyhow.)
As Denise slumps hazily on her bed, she ogles up at a poster of Jennifer Aniston. I guess having a bedroom covered in gorgeous actresses and no male heartthrobs was also something Denise’s mom assumed to be benign. When gazing lustfully at the poster, Denise still doesn’t quite have language for what she feels in the moment.
While I can’t relate to gazing at Jennifer Aniston, I was more of a Nia Long and Sanaa Lathan kinda girl, this is a common experience among lesbians.
I went years having inexplicable fascinations with certain women, before realizing those thinly guised “girl-crushes” were actually just attraction. It finally registered that I liked women during senior year of high school when my fantasies about a girl-crush were no longer platonic-passing. It was an aha moment, “Whoa, I wanna be her girlfriend.” But alas, I stayed in the closet until college.
College and Coming Out
When I went off to College, I was far enough from home to just be out and openly date women. Presumably the same was true for Denise. On a visit back home, Denise is eating at a diner with her mom. Then, her mom casually throws in a,
“At least you’re not pregnant,”
to go along with a,
“Dating any boys, yet?” or my all-time favorite,
“When you get a husband…”
Denise swallows hard and just spits out, “Ma, I’m gay.”
What resonated most with me was that Denise’s mom responded almost exactly like mine. My mom casually asked, “Anything hot on the press?” (which is how we ask each other what’s new.)
I answered like I had rehearsed a million times, “Yeah, I’m dating someone……a girl.”
Almost as if Angela Bassett sat in that very Waffle House, she acted out my mom’s reaction to a tee. She kept her composure, mostly. And rationalized how absurd of an idea having a gay daughter was to her.
Coming out to my mom wasn’t violent or more traumatizing than any other day as a lesbian in this society. She made sure to tell me I was an abomination but she didn’t see me differently, a response that she seemed to only half-believe. I’m still not sure which half.
Bring Her Home to Mama?
The last segment shows the first time Denise brings her girlfriend to Thanksgiving and how her family reacts. Unfortunately I don’t have a personal piece to add to that because I haven’t had the chance to eat Thanksgiving dinner with a woman I love.
By the end of the episode, Denise’s mom comes around to accept her daughter, and even bonds with Denise’s girlfriend. I can only hope for the same outcome.
It’s been two years since I came out to my mother. I’m not ashamed any more. I’m certainly afraid not any more. And I’m not in the closet any more…to anyone. I don’t know if this’ll make my next few Thanksgiving dinners awkward. But I do know, if someone claims they love me I shouldn’t have to meet any more criteria than just being myself. And I do hope this’ll get me out of some of those, “Got a boyfriend yet?” conversations.